As we prepare for the season ahead, the Pitcher List staff will be creating profiles for every fantasy-relevant player for 2021. Players will be broken up by team and role through starting pitchers, bullpen, lineup, and prospects. You can access every article as it comes out in our Player Profiles 2021 hub here.
At A Glance
The Arizona Diamondbacks came into the 2020 season with high expectations. While seemingly not good enough on paper to compete with the powerhouse Los Angeles Dodgers, they were hoping to build off a strong 2019 season, fight for a wild card berth, and return to the postseason for the first time since 2017.
It did not quite work out. The team finished last in the NL West in the abbreviated season, and it was quite deserved. Zac Gallen was great, but there weren’t many other bright spots. Their star player, Ketel Marte, regressed. Their big free agent acquisition, Madison Bumgarner, flopped hard in his first season in the desert. Less than a year after acquiring him and just 33 games into his Diamondbacks career, the team traded Starling Marte at the deadline and did not recoup anything close to what they gave up for him. After being considered a team on the rise coming into the season, the Diamondbacks experienced considerably poor results. An uncertain financial picture may lead to a quiet offseason for the team, and a jump up the standings is likely not to be expected. It’s not all bad, as there are still some bright spots on this team for fantasy purposes and their strong farm system should start to bear fruit sooner rather than later, but it just may not be a great year for the team in terms of wins and losses.
By Matt Wallach
|vs LHP||Name||Position||vs RHP||Name||Position|
|1||Tim Locastro||CF||1||Kole Calhoun||RF|
|2||Ketel Marte||2B||2||Ketel Marte||2B|
|3||Christian Walker||1B||3||Christian Walker||1B|
|4||Eduardo Escobar||3B||4||David Peralta||LF|
|5||David Peralta||LF||5||Eduardo Escobar||3B|
|6||Nick Ahmed||SS||6||Nick Ahmed||SS|
|7||Kole Calhoun||RF||7||Daulton Varsho||CF|
|8||Carson Kelly||C||8||Carson Kelly||C|
Ketel Marte (2B/OF)
2020: 19 R, 2 HR, 17 RBI, 1 SB, .287/.323/.409| 2B #39
2021 ADP: 87.10 (2B #7)
After an MVP-caliber season in 2019, regression was perhaps expected for Marte in 2020, but few would have expected regression like this. Marte’s batting average in 2020 was still good, but there was little else to be excited about. I wrote about Marte’s struggles in the power department in early September. The main reason for Marte’s power outage appeared to be a drop in overall pull rate as well as regression as a left-handed hitter, two areas that contributed greatly to his 2019 surge, as well as overall weaker results on his fly balls and line drives.
While 2019 was likely the peak, it wouldn’t be outlandish to suggest some sort of a bounceback may be on the horizon for Marte in 2021. Steamer projects a good campaign, with a projected .287/.353/.475 triple slash with 21 home runs, which would play quite well for fantasy purposes, especially at a discounted draft cost. He should remain in the top third of the Diamondbacks order every day and have plenty of opportunities to both score and drive in runs. Managers that roster Marte in 2021 should not expect production on a 2019 level, but also not the 2020 lows that he produced. Keep track of his performance as a left-handed hitter, as improvements in that area should help his performance improve overall.
Christian Walker (1B)
2020: 35 R, 7 HR, 34 RBI, 1 SB, .271/.333/.459 | 1B #12
2021 ADP: 185.03 (1B #19)
Walker was quite the nice find for the Diamondbacks in 2019, as he seemingly came out of nowhere to put up 29 home runs and a 112 wRC+. In his follow-up, he was still productive overall with a 110 wRC+, but the power he displayed in 2019 that made him a desired commodity on the waiver wire was not there. He still managed a hard hit rate of 48.5%, which was in line with his 2019 numbers and placed him in the 89th percentile in all of baseball, but his ISO dropped to .188. Steamer projects Walker to hit about 25 home runs and have about 80 runs batted in with little else — a good deeper league option. His current ADP appears to be a good range for him, as he’s being drafted in the same tier as other flawed or questionable first base options such as Josh Bell, Jared Walsh, and Trey Mancini. Walker will have an advantage since he is expected to hit in the middle of the Diamondbacks order, as one of their main sources of power.
Eduardo Escobar (3B)
2020: 22 R, 4 HR, 20 RBI, 1 SB, .212/.270/.335 | 3B #54
2021 ADP: 321.12 (3B #33)
Another reason for the Diamondbacks offense not matching its 2019 levels was the regression of Escobar. In 2019, he was a force in the lineup, with 35 home runs and a .242 ISO. In a similar case to his teammate Marte, Escobar’s 2019 was likely his peak and regression should have been expected in 2020, but definitely not at this level. While his performance in 2020 wasn’t all that undeserved, due to lackluster barrel and hard-hit rates and a drop in fly-ball rate, those alone probably doesn’t justify his paltry triple slash and 56 wRC+. His BABIP was a career-low .244, which likely played a role in his struggles as well. 2020 was just an ugly season for Escobar overall. Some bounceback is expected, and Steamer sees a 22 home run, 77 RBI, and 71 runs scored season in 2021, but that is likely just due to volume, as he isn’t expected to contribute much in the batting average or stolen bases categories. But he will get everyday playing time, at least to start the season. There isn’t much of a reason to buy back in and draft him at a premium price, as he likely goes undrafted in most leagues coming off his disastrous 2020 season.
Nick Ahmed (SS)
2020: 29 R, 5 HR, 29 RBI, 4 SB, .266/.327/.402 | SS #14
2021 ADP: 386.07 (SS #34)
Ahmed is the type of player who has more value in real baseball than fantasy baseball. He is a lineup anchor as one of the best defensive shortstops in the league and he has a bat that is around average for the position, which is definitely valuable. His bat has also gotten a lot better from where he once was earlier in his career, but he likely won’t get much better with the stick, as he will enter his age-31 season in 2021. That’s not to say that he is a black hole offensively — he was still the 14th-ranked shortstop in 2020, an impressive feat considering the position is quite deep. Ahmed can contribute in each category; his average shouldn’t be a drain, he’ll be playing every day and should hit in the middle-third of the order which will provide him opportunities to drive in runs, he can provide modest power with Steamer projecting 17 homers from him, and he can run, with sprint speed in the 81st percentile, per Statcast. Ahmed is not the most glamorous option at the position, but he should be a positive contributor for those in deeper formats.
Carson Kelly (C)
2020: 11 R, 5 HR, 19 RBI, 0 SB, .221/.264/.385 | C #24
2021 ADP: 292.28 (C #17)
Kelly was a popular late round option at catcher coming into the 2020 season after he had a strong debut with the Diamondbacks in his first chance at extended playing time in the majors after coming to the team in the Paul Goldschmidt trade. He posted an encouraging .245/.348/.478 triple slash with 18 home runs in 365 plate appearances and looked to be living up to his one-time top prospect status. Like a lot of other Diamondbacks though, he was not able to match that production the next season, with Kelly experiencing quite the regression in 2020. His hard-hit and barrel rates each dropped off considerably, and his excellent plate discipline that was on display in 2019 with a 13.2% walk rate came crashing down as he managed only a 4.7% walk rate. Those struggles help explain why his current ADP is approaching 300 overall while being the 17th catcher off the board. He likely won’t be drafted in standard one catcher leagues, but with the catching position being as weak as it is, Kelly could still be fantasy relevant with a hot start in 2021. He should be kept on the watch list if you find yourself without one of the top catchers, but there isn’t much of a reason to consider him in drafts right now.
Kole Calhoun (OF)
2020: 35 R, 16 HR, 40 RBI, 1 SB, .232/.325/.467 | OF #27
2021 ADP: 263.91 (OF #70)
We likely know who Calhoun is as a player at this stage of his career. He’ll be 33 at the start of the 2021 season. He’s long been a consistent producer, aside from some odd seasons in 2017 and 2018. He maintained that track record during his first season in Arizona, as Calhoun did quite well, and was the best source of power on the team. The formula is there for him to repeat. His overall batted ball profile looks solid from 2020, with good exit velocity and barrel rates to pair with a 40.3% groundball rate. Statcast was a fan of his season, with expected slugging and expected wOBA marks of .519 and .364, respectively, landing him in the 87th percentile in both metrics. At another year older, Calhoun should be expected to regress some, but he should continue to deliver boring, yet solid production that can be still quite useful for fantasy purposes. Power is his primary offering at this stage of his career, so his batting average likely won’t help much, but at the top of the Diamondbacks order, he should remain one of the team’s best sources of both runs scored and driven in, with 20+ home run potential.
David Peralta (OF)
2020: 19 R, 5 HR, 34 RBI, 1 SB, .300/.339/.433 | OF #49
2021 ADP: 277.57 (OF #75)
Like Calhoun, Peralta is another aging veteran and is actually being drafted in a similar spot to Calhoun so far. Peralta has definitely come down from his productive highs between the 2017 and 2019 seasons, but he still projects to be about a league-average bat. He should probably be a platoon player at this point in his career, as he fared much better against right-handed pitching in 2020 with a 118 wRC+ against them compared to a 69 mark against southpaws. He was an everyday player for the team in 2020 and he could still be one this season, at least to start the year, as the Diamondbacks’ outfield depth leaves a lot to be desired. Nothing immediately jumps out about his Statcast profile, and he hits far too many groundballs (around 50% for his entire career) for there to be much power upside at this point in his career. He should continue to hit righties well, and he could have more fantasy value in leagues with daily lineups, but overall, nothing glamorous should be expected. Steamer projects 18 home runs at a .270/.331/.443 triple slash for a roughly average 99 wRC+, which has value, but isn’t something that a manager should try to put a premium on.
Daulton Varsho (OF/C)
2020: 16 R, 3 HR, 9 RBI, 3 SB, .188/.287/.366 | OF #102, C #29
2021 ADP: 174.86 (OF #49, C #10)
A lot of the intrigue surrounding Varsho for the 2021 season is that he is the rare catcher who carries eligbility elsewhere, which explains why he is currently being drafted at a premium. Additionally, Varsho possesses real speed, as he was in the 86th percentile in 2020, which means that a manager could, in theory, get a good helping of steals from the catcher position. Depending on the circumstances, that kind of value could be a league winner. Varsho struggled in his first big league action, which shouldn’t have been so surprising as Varsho was likely not yet ready for the Majors just yet. His ETA per FanGraphs coming into the year was 2021 and without minor league games, not much should be made out of a lackluster 115 plate appearance sample. Varsho still has a top-100 prospect pedigree, with scouting reports praising his hit tool and wheels. His profile as a hitter should be as a high-contact gap hitter, with the potential to steal 30 bases. With a report like that at the catcher position, it’s clear why he is such a desired fantasy player. He may not be an everyday player this season, but he should still get plenty of playing time and a long leash, considering the overall state of the Diamondbacks roster. Steamer projects him for a .257/.324/.440 triple slash with 13 home runs and ten stolen bases in about 370 plate appearances. Varsho is more of a potential play for 2021, and rostering managers should have backup options in mind just in case he still isn’t quite ready for the Majors.
Watch List Considerations
The Diamondbacks don’t have many options on their bench that may end up being fantasy relevant. Tim Locastro possesses 100th percentile sprint speed and has yet to be caught stealing in the Majors in 26 attempts. He managed to do quite well in 82 plate appearances, but with a 1.8% barrel rate and a 21.4% hard-hit rate in 2020, a repeat should not be expected. Elsewhere on the bench, utility players such as Josh VanMeter, Andy Young, and Josh Rojas have been intriguing names in the past, but aren’t projected to do much in 2021. Perhaps if the team decides to commit to playing the youth, they could be fantasy relevant, but right now they don’t have playing time, barring an announcement of the universal DH being implemented. In terms of minor leaguers coming up, Pavin Smith made his debut in 2020 and could see more playing time at some point. Seth Beer should be able to hit well but he can’t really play a position. He could also be a DH option if the position becomes permanent in the NL, which should, theoretically, give him more fantasy relevance. Top prospects such as Kristian Robinson, Alek Thomas, and Corbin Carroll are likely still a year or two away, and shouldn’t be considered in redraft leagues at the moment.
By Ryan Amore
Zac Gallen (Locked In Starter)
2020: 7-0, 56 IP, 50 K, 2.25 ERA, 1.09 WHIP | SP #16
2021 ADP: 39.48 (P #14)
Repertoire: 39% 4-Seam Fastball, 25.7% Cutter, 19% Changeup, 16.1% Curveball, 0.2% Sinker
As the Diamondbacks ace, Zac Gallen has carried a 2.78 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, and 18.7% K-BB rate over the past two seasons combined (152 IP). Of course, you can’t bank on an ERA that slim, though last year’s 3.70 xERA provides a reasonable barometer for expectations. He’s also held opposing batters to under a .300 xwOBA in each of the past two seasons (.321 xwOBA was league-average last season). Gallen’s fastball isn’t overpowering, sitting at 93.2 mph, but he does have an extraordinary array of secondary pitches, including a curveball and changeup that each held chase rates north of 40% last year with swinging strike rates of 16.9% and 22.2% respectively. In addition, he can reliably throw his cutter for strikes (48% zone rate last season), providing him with multiple avenues to attack opposing hitters. Overall, Gallen showed excellent command last year with an edge of the zone rate of 48.6% that actually led the league among qualifiers (39% was league-average). A further testament to his brilliant command, his pitch heatmaps might just be works of art. Last year’s 19.6% K-BB rate was 25th among starters with at least 50 IP. The only tricky part is draft day cost as he’s currently going inside the top 15 starters, so Gallen Gals will be paying the premium. The skills are sharp and the results so far have been superlative, but it’s still a high cost for a young pitcher who has yet to do it across a full season — perhaps, even more, when considering team context inside a difficult division. Steamer has him projected for a 4.14 ERA and 1.29 WHIP. Meanwhile, ZiPS is more optimistic with a 3.60 ERA and 1.20 WHIP projection. Either way, the safe play will be to anticipate at least some regression from last season.
Caleb Smith (Locked In Starter)
2020: 0-0, 14 IP, 15 K, 2.57 ERA, 1.39 WHIP | SP #144
2021 ADP: 307.47 (P# 116)
Repertoire: 51.3% 4-Seam Fastball, 26.6% Slider, 14.6% Changeup, 7.5% Curveball.
Acquired by the Diamondbacks before the deadline as part of the Starling Marte deal with Miami, Smith only made five starts last year as he was part of the Marlins early-season COVID-19 outbreak. And of those five starts, he eclipsed the 70 pitch mark in just one. So it might not be all that useful to dissect what we saw of him last year. Putting together 2018 and 2019 (230.2 IP), Smith has held an above-average K-rate at 26.3%, to go along with a 4.41 ERA and 1.23 WHIP. His arsenal is led by a high-spin fastball (82nd percentile in 2019) along with a slider and changeup that have both carried swinging strike rates north of 15%. Along with a respectable 26.8% CSW rate over those two seasons, he would seem to have strikeout upside. However, a walk rate of 9.6% and suspect command as evidenced by a barrel rate allowed of over 9% in the past three seasons are the pitfalls. Outside of Gallen, Smith looks like the best gamble for strikeouts in the Arizona rotation.
Luke Weaver (Locked In Starter)
2020: 1-9, 52 IP, 55 K, 6.58 ERA, 1.56 WHIP | SP # 276
2021 ADP: 420.31 (P# 161)
Repertoire: 54% 4-Seam Fastball, 27.3% Changeup, 11.8% Cutter, 6.9% Curveball
Among starters who threw at least 50 innings, Weaver’s ERA of 6.58 put him third from the bottom just ahead of Matthew Boyd and Aníbal Sánchez. We’ve seen Weaver tease us in the past, though, with a 3.88 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, and 21.8% K-BB% in 60.1 IP with the Cardinals back in 2017. And in 2019 with Arizona, he recorded a 2.94 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, and 21.2% K-BB% in 64.1 IP. Last year, his xERA of 4.58 in addition to a wide gap between his .362 wOBA allowed versus a .316 xwOBA (league-average xwOBA last season was .321) might provide some evidence that Weaver just suffered some rough variance over a short sample. His fastball, in particular, allowed a .392 wOBA against a much lower .330 xwOBA. Last year’s 15.7% K-BB rate was respectable and placed him 37th among starters. Of all of his pitches, only his changeup has registered a swinging K rate over 15% while his overall swinging K rate sits at just 10% for his career so the upside is capped but he could eke out some value as a reasonable streamer against weaker lineups.
Merrill Kelly (Likely Starter)
2020: 0-1, 13.2 IP, 8 K, 3.95 ERA, 1.32 WHIP | SP # 181
2021 ADP: 499.03 (P# 199)
Repertoire: 31.2 % Sinker, 28.6% Slider, 28.1% 4-Seam Fastball, 12.1% Changeup
Kelly only made five starts last season due to a right-shoulder impingement but he was impressive, managing a 2.59 ERA and 0.99 WHIP across 31.1 IP. His changeup returned a 38.6% whiff rate, though that may have just been a small sample blip as it was at just 24.2% in 2019. Kelly has shown an excellent ability to throw strikes with both of his secondary pitches, as his curveball and changeup have both carried a zone rate over 40% in each of the past two seasons. Overall though, Kelly doesn’t look like a pitcher who carries significant upside considering in his last two seasons combined (214.2 IP), his fastball has averaged 92 mph, while his K-rate sits at a modest 20.7%. Similar to Weaver, Kelly’s ceiling looks limited but he could provide some reasonable appeal as a streaming option.
Madison Bumgarner (Locked In Starter)
2020: 1-4, 41.2 IP, 30 K, 6.48 ERA, 1.44 WHIP | SP # 264
2021 ADP: 367.42 (P #143)
Repertoire: 38.9% 4-Seam Fastball, 36.6% Cutter, 22.7% Curveball, 1.3% Changeup, 0.6% Sinker
Perhaps in a similar fashion to Félix Hernández, the collapse is coming early for Bumgarner, who, despite having just turned 31, is 16th among active pitchers with 1887.2 IP. Jacob deGrom, as an example, is over a year older than Bumgarner but has logged nearly 700 fewer innings. The decline may have been already happening under the surface for a few years now as Bumgarner’s xERA has risen each season since 2016. Unfortunately for the Diamondbacks, the roof just absolutely caved in last season in the first year of his five-year deal. Based on what we saw last year, most notably a massive 8.3% dip in strikeout rate, it’s difficult to find an angle for optimism. His fastball velocity fell exactly three full ticks to 88.4 MPH, while its whiff rate also plummeted from 21.2% to 8.4%. Overall, his 7.6% swinging strike rate would have ranked ahead of only Jon Lester (7.2%) among qualifiers. In addition, the .377 wOBA he allowed to opposing batters is supported by a .391 xwOBA (bottom 2%). Bumgarner missed nearly a month with a mid-back strain so the hope is that a healthy offseason could help him regain some lost velocity. From that sense, it might be worth keeping an eye on his spring velocity. If his fastball is back up in the 91 range he could be worth a late-round selection as the volume should be there at the very least. Projections are decidedly pessimistic though with Steamer having him pegged for a 5.30 ERA and 1.41 WHIP leaving the former stalwart as just a bench pick for deep leagues.
Watch List Considerations
Team context knocks the appeal of the Diamondback rotation. Last year their offense struggled to score runs, and their bullpen was suspect too. They’ll face some very stiff competition inside the division with the Dodgers, Padres, and road starts at Coors. Gallen is the clear cut ace while Weaver, Smith, Bumgarner, and Kelly are, along with so many other SPs, in that wide range of potential streamers. As far as other options, the Diamondbacks do have some potential young arms who could contribute — most likely later in the year in Corbin Martin, who started five games for the Astros in 2019 and is returning from Tommy John surgery, along with Jon Duplantier, who is coming off of an elbow issue last year and started 11 games for Triple-A Reno back in 2019. For now, they are just reserve picks in deep NL formats.
By Matt Wallach
|Closer||Next In Line||Other Holds Options||Middle/Long Relief|
|Stefan Crichton||Kevin Ginkel||Keury Mella||Travis Bergen|
Stefan Crichton (Closer)
2020: 5 SV, 2 HLD, 26.0 IP, 23 K, 2.42 ERA, 1.19 WHIP | RP #40
2021 ADP: 268.02 (P #103)
The trade of Archie Bradley to the Cincinnati Reds at the deadline left a hole in the closer spot for the Diamondbacks. This role is far from a certainty at this stage, but Crichton was the pitcher who got the majority of the save opportunities for the Diamondbacks down the stretch, and all five of his saves came after the Bradley trade. On the surface, Crichton may not be the most exciting pitcher. He only had a 21.1% strikeout rate in 2020, but he should be capable of getting the job done due to a good ability to generate weak contact. He had a barrel rate allowed of just 1.4%, and has a career groundball rate of 49.8%, due to his primary pitch being a sinker. Strikeouts are nice, but weak contact is nice too, especially when there are quite a few closers that have issues with the long ball. Crichton should be a nice late round closer but expect that ADP to jump if he is formally declared as the closer in Spring Training.
Kevin Ginkel (Next In Line)
2020: 1 SV, 0 HLD, 16.0 IP, 18 K, 6.75 ERA, 2.13 WHIP | RP #372
2021 ADP: Undrafted
Ginkel was a speculative pick during drafts in 2020, as he was coming into the year fresh off a 1.48 ERA season in his 24 inning debut in 2019, and with some managers believing he would be the one to win the job should Bradley struggle. The thinking made sense, but Ginkel did not live up to his end of the bargain as he struggled immensely in 2020. The biggest culprit was his command. He walked 16.5% of his batters faced, which was made even worse due to the .400 BABIP he allowed. He was optioned to the alternate site in mid-September, but due to the, let’s say, lack of quality relievers in Arizona’s bullpen, he should get another chance with the big league club in 2021. He’s not very relevant at the moment for fantasy purposes but can be if he can return to his 2019 form.
Keury Mella (Holds Option)
2020: 0 SV, 0 HLD, 10.0 IP, 18 K, 1.80 ERA, 1.30 WHIP | RP #108
2021 ADP: Undrafted
Mella is a longtime Reds farmhand who prior to 2020 had just 17 innings on a big league mound. The Diamondbacks gave him a call-up in September and he did quite well with a 1.80 ERA, although the peripherals (3.39 FIP, 3.85 SIERA, 4.01 xERA) suggest some of it wasn’t all that legitimate. An 86.2% LOB rate was likely a big part of his low ERA, but Mella can still be a serviceable middle reliever. He’s a fastball-slider pitcher, and his fastball was hit hard in his brief 2020 cameo, with a .571 slugging percentage and .407 wOBA. Based on that and the small track record, Mella shouldn’t be viewed as much more than an extremely deep holds candidate at this point.
Travis Bergen (Middle Relief)
2020: 1 SV, 0 HLD, 8.1 IP, 11 K, 3.24 ERA, 1.68 WHIP | RP #159
2021 ADP: Undrafted
Bergen was the return for the Diamondbacks in the Robbie Ray trade and pitched a handful of innings for the team in September. Bergen may be one of the more interesting options in the team’s bullpen. That’s mostly due to him seeing his fastball velocity spike an addition two mph higher in 2020. Bergen pairs that with a high-spin curveball (74th percentile in 2020) and features good vertical movement. He’s struggled with command throughout his pro career, and that was well on display in his brief cameo in 2020 with a whopping 25% walk rate. Unlike Ginkel, a .267 BABIP and 87.3% LOB rate limited the damage, but he’ll need to improve that command considerably in order to be a truly fantasy-relevant option. He could step into a higher-leverage role though should other options struggle.
Watch List Considerations
Elsewhere in the bullpen, there are a handful of swingman or sixth starter types in Taylor Widener, Alex Young, and Taylor Clarke that can be multi-inning options or “bulk guys” at points in the season that should be readily available on the waiver wire. Yoan López has been a holds option in the past, but his 2020 was a disaster with a 5.95 ERA and he has limited strikeout ability. He may step into a higher leverage role at some point, but he shouldn’t be a priority in drafts. The team does have many upper level minors arms that may make their debuts or get extended looks in J.B. Bukauskas, Humberto Mejía, and Riley Smith. While the org hopes that they can end up as starters in the long run, they all could get looks out of the bullpen in 2021. They’ll probably at least start the year in AAA, so their 2021 impact may be limited.
ADP data taken from FantasyPros composite ADPs [hyperlink to be added once 2021 data is available].
2019 Positional Rankings from Razzball’s 12-team Player Rater (ESPN).
Photos by Hayden Schiff/Flickr, Russell Lansford & Daniel Gluskoter/Icon Sportswire | Adapted by Justin Redler (@reldernitsuj on Twitter)